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Matt the Shrimp

aka Harry Potter
Oct 27, 2003
Lewisham, London
Went to the sponsors evening on behalf of the SUFC Exiles last night for our sponsorship of Leon Cort's shirt last season.  A most enjoyable evening it was too!

Brian Wheeler said that Dave & Marisa would give us the signed shirts of our sponsored player and introduce us to the player... so I'm disappointed to report that Dave didn't then manage to produce Leon Cort for me to meet last night...

Got to meet quite a few of the players last night - almost all for the first time.  Here are my random musings about it all...

*Spinner, Andy & Bart... they're all MASSIVE!!  I'd like to see anyone winning a header against that lot this season.  Crumbs!  Andy also looks almost exactly the same as he did 11 or so years ago.  Notably, he's what I'd call "whippet-lean" - he looks pretty lean, and yet strong too.  Spinner looks like a man mountain, as does Bart (though both look in good-shape, pre-season).

*Drrooooo.  OK, I am now a total convert to the cause of Mr. Drewe Broughton.  Probably more than any single player there, he made sure he spoke to everyone he could at the Sponsor's Night.  Totally approachable, talkative, funny, down-to-earth, honest...  A completely top bloke.  On personality alone, I'd probably make him Captain.  Interesting insight into the Wignall/Tilly transformation.  Last December he was looking for the exit door.  Now he totally loves it at Roots Hall.  Has been carrying a slight knock on his foot which he picked up doing boxing training - so may be a doubt for Saturday; but he seems totally up for this season.  If we get behind him, he could be a big player for us this year - and not merely in size! (Another tall lad, obviously)

*Nicky Nicolau.  Quite quiet and shy - but a genuine lad, and one who seemed keen as mustard to get playing and to improve.  He has moved out of the family home in Crouch End to Waltham Abbey, so that he can get to training more easily, and yet still be near his mum and sisters.  At the age of 19, I'd say that's the move of someone determined to prove and improve himself.  Good on yer, Nicky.

*Lawrie Dudfield. Another quiet & shy lad, but quite talkative once we got him going.  Oddly, not as big as I thought he would be - he looks taller and broader on the pitch.  I asked the one question which had nagged me for a while: "any regrets about leaving promotion-chasing Northampton?"  Answer - without hesitation: "None.  None at all.  I feel really at home here."  What's more - I believed him.

He grew up in Kettering - played for the Poppies as a YTS lad - and his family are there; but he has moved to Upminster, again so that he's nearer for training.  Interesting fact: Lawrie was a Hammers fan when he grew up, so is very excited at the prospect of doing something a bit special at Upton Park.  Kev Maher is also very excited about that game, since all of his childhood friends (having grown up in Ilford) are Hammers fans.  As a Liverpool fan (Kev's dad was a Liverpool fan as well), he's well up for sticking one over his mates' team!

*Kev Maher.  Looked, and gave off the impression, of being confident... it's as if he's grown into the role of being captain, of being the senior player at the club (in terms of time spent - he's now been here almost 7 years).  Had a big chuckle about all the Sheffield Wednesday rumours - said it was all bollax, and in fact he was simply on holiday!  I told him that we were delighted to have him back - and he said he was delighted to be back, noting that the atmosphere in the dressing room at the moment is the best it's ever been since he joined the club.  In particular, Kev said that it was a settled dressing room - that not many players had joined the club, and that of those who had, three (Eagle, Spinner and Adam) were Southend boys, who knew their way around the town and/or the club.  This had contributed towards the dressing room feeling really united.

This was something that Drewe also said: "It's not rocket-science... it's just that Tilly makes us feel good about ourselves, Brushy really sorts us out in training.  We all feel totally up for it, and it's all down to the gaffer."  Incidentally, I asked the players if one of Tilly & Brushy was the straight man and the other was the funny man... the consensus was that Brushy's joke-telling skills leave a bit to be desired.

*Carl Pettefer.  A chatty, down-to-earth guy.  Notably, he was joint-last to leave (along with Spinner, whom sadly I didn't get to speak to), because he was happy to chat to us fans about the forthcoming season.  Feels fit and raring to go, and has been given the all-clear by the physio.  After the Huddersfield game, the bloke who chopped him down didn't even bother to stick his head in the dressing-room and find out how he was - Carl was pretty miffed about that.  He then got on the team bus back to Southend, then drove his car back to Portsmouth... and only then discovered that he had a broken leg!  Prefers playing centre-mid, but knows that he's got his job cut out to fit in there, so is likely to play on the left, because he knows he has a good understanding with Nicky.  I suggested that may be because of their superior levels of training at Pompey & Arsenal... he gave a wry-grin, which sort of acknowledged that.

*Although I didn't get to speak to him, I was impressed to see that Wayne Gray was one of the last to leave - seemed genuinely keen on meeting the fans, particularly a large-ish group of kids who, I'm sure, will make Wayne their new cult hero!

*Also very impressed to see how lean and relaxed all the players were looking.  Most impressively (in the lean stakes), Tes looks fitter than he has in ages... not so impressive was the fact that he slunk off quite early.  Jim Corbett also looked as if he's getting towards his "fighting" weight.

*Had a decent chat with Tilly.  What I like most about him is the fact that he oozes enthusiasm, and in particular passion for our club.  Both he & Brushy (who also joined the conversation) are most excited about the fact that there's massive competition for places now.  Last season, Tilly said that there were at least 3 players (at a guess - and this is entirely my guess, since Tilly didn't even hint who it may be - but I'd guess Flavs, Cort and Maher) who knew they were in the side every week, regardless of how they played.  He said that now, no one has that "comfort-zone" behind them - everyone is going to have to fight for their place in the side.  If anything, a major concern for Tilly & Brushy was going to be keeping everyone happy - after all, if they get off to a flyer, it'll be hard to change a winning side.

Injuries to key players is something which worries them, and they know that they're going to need luck in that area if we're going to be challenging for honours.  But they're both aware that this is the best squad we've had in years.

There's a general, and genuine regret that Jay Smith is going to be out until November (every single player, and Tilly, said that he wouldn't be back before then) - but Tilly said that getting him back then would be "like having a new signing"; they all know how good he can be.

I asked Brushy if we're going to be Orient as well this season... "Cor, that would make my month - not my season, but definitely my month, if we got one over them."  He's well up for it!

Finally, chatted to Brian Dear (who laid on an excellent spread in the Shrimpers - thanks Brian), who is obviously excited about the forthcoming Southend v. West Ham game... and who let us into a secret: he'll be supporting Southend on Tues 24th!

I think that's about it from me.  All the squad bar, I think, Jay Smith were there - Jay's in the process of having the metal plate removed from his foot, so I think we can excuse him.  Good luck Jay - get well soon.  But overall: they look confident, composed and raring to go - so bring on the Cheltenham!